20 Good Character Traits Essential For Happiness

“In temper he was Earnest, yet controlled, frank, yet sufficiently guarded, patient, yet energetic, forgiving, yet just to himself; generous yet firm.”

“His conscience was the strongest element of his nature. His affections were tender and warm. His whole nature was simple and sincere – he was pure, and then was himself.”

“Such a nature was admirably constituted to direct an heroic struggle on the part of a people proud enough to prefer a guide to a leader, a man commissioned to execute the popular will but, as in his case, strong enough to enforce his own.”

If you haven't guessed yet, these quotes were written about the character of the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln was a role model for character, integrity, and honesty, traits that never left him throughout the trials and tribulations of leading a country during one of the worst periods of its history.

Of course Lincoln was president during the 19th century when good character was a highly-regarded quality.

According to historian Warren Susman in his book Culture as History, the use of the word “character” peaked in the 19th century. “Character was a keyword in the vocabulary of Englishmen and Americans,” says Susman, and so important to society that it was promoted as an essential component of one's identity.

Things began to change in the 20th century, as we transitioned from a producing to a consuming society. Emphasis shifted from a focus on virtue and character to a focus on self and material possessions.

Says Susman, “The vision of self-sacrifice began to yield to that of self-realization.”

It became more important to cultivate personality traits, influence, and outer perceptions than to develop nobility of heart, mind, and deed. Abraham Lincoln likely would never be elected president today.

Is developing good character an outdated, useless pursuit that has little relevance in modern society?

If you look at many of today's role models (the Kardashians, Miley Cyrus, sports celebrities), it would seem so. Who has time for a boring character which gets in the way of an egocentric life?

However, it doesn't take much experience to discover how essential good character traits are when it comes to one's self-esteem, relationships, and life satisfaction.

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Individual character is the linchpin for a healthy, functioning society. Although it may not be a popular pursuit, developing your character is one of the most satisfying, emotionally intelligent endeavors you'll ever undertake.

Good character consists of defining your values and integrity based on time-tested principles and self-reflection and having the courage to live your life accordingly.

So how do you begin to improve your character?

Let's look at 20 good character traits that impact your happiness . . .

1. Integrity

Integrity is having strong moral principles and core values and then conducting your life with those as your guide. When you have integrity, you main your adherence to it whether or not other people are watching.

2. Honesty

Honesty is more than telling the truth. It's living the truth. It is being straightforward and trustworthy in all of your interactions, relationships, and thoughts. Being honest requires self-honesty and authenticity.


3. Loyalty

Loyalty is faithfulness and devotion to your loved ones, your friends, and anyone with whom you have a trusted relationship. Loyalty can also extend to your employer, the organizations you belong to, your community, and your country.

4. Respectfulness

You treat yourself and others with courtesy, kindness, deference, dignity, and civility. You offer basic respect as a sign of your value for the worth of all people and your ability to accept the inherent flaws we all possess.

5. Responsibility

You accept personal, relational, career, community, and societal obligations even when they are difficult or uncomfortable. You follow through on commitments and proactively create or accept accountability for your behavior and choices.

6. Humility

You have a confident yet modest opinion of your own self-importance. You don't see yourself as “too good” for other people or situations. You have a learning and growth mindset and the desire to express and experience gratitude for what you have, rather than expecting you deserve more.

7. Compassion

You feel deep sympathy and pity for the suffering and misfortune of others, and you have a desire to do something to alleviate their suffering.

8. Fairness

Using discernment, compassion, and integrity, you strive to make decisions and take actions based on what you consider the ultimate best course or outcome for all involved.

9. Forgiveness

You make conscious, intentional decisions to let go of resentment and anger toward someone for an offense — whether or not forgiveness is sought by the offender. Forgiveness may or may not include pardoning, restoration, or reconciliation. It extends both to others and to one's self.

10. Authenticity

You are able to be your real and true self, without pretension, posturing, or insincerity. You are capable of showing appropriate vulnerability and self-awareness.

11. Courageousness

In spite of fear of danger, discomfort, or pain, you have the mental fortitude to carry on with a commitment, plan, or decision, knowing it is the right or best course of action.


12. Generosity

You are willing to offer your time, energy, efforts, emotions, words, or assets without the expectation of something in return. You offer these freely and often joyously.

13. Perseverance

Perseverance is the steadfast persistence and determination to continue on with a course of action, belief, or purpose, even if it's difficult or uncomfortable in order to reach a higher goal or outcome.

14. Politeness

You are knowledgeable of basic good manners, common courtesies, and etiquette, and are willing to apply those to all people you encounter. You desire to learn the skills of politeness in order to enhance your relationships and self-esteem

good-character-traits15. Kindness

Kindness is an attitude of being considerate, helpful, and benevolent to others. It is motivated by a positive disposition and the desire for warm and pleasant interactions.

16. Lovingness

The ability to be loving toward those you love means showing them through your words, actions, and expressions how deeply you care about them. It includes the willingness to be open and vulnerable.

17. Optimism

Optimism is a sense of hopefulness and confidence about the future. It involves a positive mental attitude in which you interpret life events, people, and situations in a promising light.

18. Reliability

You can be consistently depended upon to follow through on your commitments, actions, and decisions. You do what you say you will do.

19. Conscientiousness

You have the desire to do things well or to the best of your ability. You are thorough, careful, efficient, organized, and vigilant in your efforts, based on your own principles or sense of what is right.

20. Self-discipline

You are able, through good habits or willpower, to overcome your desires or feelings in order to follow the best course of action or to rise to your commitments or principles. You have a strong sense of self-control in order to reach a desired goal.

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Developing these traits of good character can be difficult to foster and maintain, but they afford so many positive benefits to improve the quality of your life.


How to build good character traits

If you believe developing these positive characteristics, here are some action steps to show you how.

Define your core values

Know what is most important to you by determining your values for your professional and personal life. These are the principles that are the foundation for your priorities, choices, actions, and behaviors. You can start by looking at this list of values.

Practice the habits

Pick one or two from the list of character traits above to practice for several weeks. Write down the actions you want to take or the behaviors you define that reflect this trait, and implement them in your daily life and interactions. Wear a rubber band on your wrist or create other reminders to help you practice.

Find people with character

Surround yourself with people who reflect the character traits you want to embrace. They will inspire and motivate you to build these traits in yourself. Try to avoid people who have a weak character and make bad decisions.

Take some risks

Start taking small actions toward a goal or value that involve some level of risk. When you face the possibility of failure and challenge yourself toward success, you become mentally and emotionally stronger and more committed to your principles.

Stretch yourself

Create high standards and big goals for yourself. Expect the best of yourself and constantly work toward that, even though you will have setbacks and occasional failures. Every stretch builds your confidence and knowledge that your positive character traits are getting stronger.

Commit to self-improvement

Realize that building your character is a life-long endeavor. It is something that is practiced both in the minutiae and the defining moments of your life. There will be times you step up to the character traits you embrace and other times you falter. By remaining committed to personal growth and learning about yourself, your character will naturally improve, even through the failures.

What do you consider to be the most important and valuable character traits?

How do you reflect these traits in your daily life both at work and in your personal life?

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 11 comments
  • Lisa Barrett

    Couldn’t agree with this feature more! I’ve always taught these core values to my children and tried to follow them myself. I’m sick and tired of the way so many people admire wealth and fame over a good heart and honest living. If we all were a little kinder and forgiving instead of greedy and selfish, the world would be such a better place. x

  • Sarah

    I love this. It’s such a good reminder of what I need to work on, but it’s also an excellent opportunity to feel gratitude for the traits I naturally possess. That’s a beautiful quote by Seneca, as well. Always love these roundups, Barrie!

  • Niro Thambipillay

    A great article Barrie! External possessions can be whisked away in an instant but our character is internal. It’s ours and it can never be taken away from us. If we focus on our character, our reputation will take care of itself. But if we focus on our reputation and what others think of us, our character will always be called into question… and we can never be truly happy. The challenges we face in life on a constant basis are often opportunities for us to build our character – hence the term “character building”, something that has gone out of fashion in today’s quick fix world but something that is crucial to long term happiness. Thank you for sharing.


    Thanks Barrie, excellent work, I think it really help us. Thanks again for caring so much

  • Aparna

    Thanks Barrie for every article. I look forward for your articles.

  • lynne

    I’ve always loved reading your articles, very informative and inspiring, Character is what defines a person, having a good character gains respect more than anything else. Thanks for sharing. Great Post!

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  • Sherill

    I definitely agree that these 20 character traits are what we should strive to become. My favorites are integrity, honesty and humility. These are the traits I look for in people. Our moral values are what makes us and living a life with integrity, honesty and humility can never go wrong. We will not only achieve success but happiness as well.

  • Cody Mann

    That was a great list of traits you must have. I couldn’t agree more with the points that you talked about, however. Fortunately when you begin practicing one or two of those things on a consistent basis the rest will usually follow in a domino effect-like fashion. If all of us practiced these things on a daily basis this world would be a much better place.

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  • shadae

    Well done to this article I have learned a lot based and what I have read and will pratice them in my daily life.

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